A new bill has been introduced today by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul, titled the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013. The measure was announced in a press release.
The bipartisan measure would give federal judges the flexibility to give a sentence lower than current mandatory minimum sentences, which are often incredibly harsh for even simple drug-related offenses.
Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, making his backing of the bill absolutely critical, and giving it much greater chance of passing, or at least gaining some traction.
According to Leahy,
“Our reliance on mandatory minimums has been a great mistake. I am not convinced it has reduced crime, but I am convinced it has imprisoned people, particularly non-violent offenders, for far longer than is just or beneficial. It is time for us to let judges go back to acting as judges and making decisions based on the individual facts before them. A one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing does not make us safer.”
Senator Paul indicated a similar sentiment,
“Our country’s mandatory minimum laws reflect a Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits-all approach, which undermines the Constitutional Separation of Powers, violates the our bedrock principle that people should be treated as individuals, and costs the taxpayers money without making them any safer. This bill is necessary to combat the explosion of new federal criminal laws, many of which carry new mandatory minimum penalties.”
The press release makes note of the fact that over the past 40 years, America’s incarceration rate has grown by over 700%, also noting that the federal prison budget has risen by $2 billion in the past 5 years alone, taking money from crime prevention programs and the police on the street dealing with violent criminals.
The measure would only be one step forward along the path of a better criminal justice system, but it would certainly be a move that could positively effect the lives of a lot of people.